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Mindfulness on the go for remote health professionals
In the busyness, and with the competing demands in our lives, it is essential to prioritise our physical health and wellbeing, writes Senior Psychologist, Therese Forbes. We are constantly bombarded with suggestions for what is required. “Drink 2 litres of water, exercise 30 minutes a day, sleep 8 hours, meditate 20 minutes, eat 5 veggies and 2 fruits, stretch often to prevent muscle tension, be patient with your partner and children… Oh, and be mindful.”
These messages come to us from a variety of sources such as media, well-meaning friends and family and social media posts. They can leave us feeling deficient because we are simply not doing enough!
OK. Take three deep breaths and imagine your shoulders relaxing with each outward breath.
Now, just as there are breakfasts to go and takeaway meals that are aimed at the busy and time-poor, there are mindfulness practices that we can incorporate into the normal course of our day. In fact, the emphasis of mindfulness is on being, not doing. The beauty of mindfulness to go is that it won’t take up extra time or become something that you must place on your to-do list or become an expert at.
Remember these tips are meant to be easily incorporated into your day and they will make a significant difference to how you feel physically and mentally with the minimum of effort.
Great! Let’s step through some examples of how simply shifting your focus makes your experiences richer and meaningful. Our nervous systems love this stuff.
As you awaken and before getting out of bed, bring to your mind a couple of things that you are grateful for. Savour them and luxuriate in the wonderful feelings they evoke.
While the kettle is boiling for that important cup of tea or coffee, watch yourself place the tea bag into the cup or the coffee into the plunger or machine. Take in the glorious smells – stay in that moment for just a few extra seconds. Watch yourself pour in the hot water – what can you see/hear/smell? Notice if your mind wanders off and bring yourself back to the present moment.
Note: Your mind will typically want to hijack you at this point! It’s there saying “great, about time you woke up – now let’s think about everything we need to achieve today”. Take no notice of it. We may not be able to switch it off completely but what we can do is not buy into the thoughts.
Heading out the door for a walk or run? Notice the sky – the colour, the clouds or the early morning light. If you are lucky enough to be at the beach, notice the sand and how it feels beneath your toes, the tiny patterns that have formed overnight and other footsteps perhaps. Feel the coolness or the lack of breeze, feel the quality of the air on your skin. Hear the sounds – take a moment to listen for any faraway sounds. Perhaps there is some traffic noise or birds off in the distance or the sounds of quiet rustlings in the undergrowth. Look into the water and imagine the myriad of sea life that you cannot see but you know is there. Notice the patterns of the waves or the tide gently lapping the shore.
Be completely in this experience for just a couple of minutes – enough so that you could later recount the experience to a colleague or friend.
Simply taking your coffee into the garden or finding a sunny spot inside is great if you are not able to get out for a walk. Putting yourself in the environment where you can experience some of the elements is like a power boost for your day. If that is in your own backyard, that is okay.
Maybe you need to get some children to school. Take the time to be fully present with them, have a little joke or be silly for a minute – revel in that hug or kiss goodbye.
Taking some time to do YOUR life before you go into work is extra beneficial. Our jobs and professions are very important but we simply cannot do our best work if we do not feel at our best.
See the workplace as another opportunity to practise some ‘mindfulness to go’ by being fully present when engaging in tasks, meetings and conversations.
Some of the ways to do this are:
- Avoid multi-tasking – focus on one thing at a time if possible.
- Practise active listening by paying full attention to your colleague or patient. Really connect with them.
- Pay attention to your surroundings and any tension in your body.
- Consciously choose to take perspective and look at the bigger picture rather than sweat the smaller stuff if you find yourself being frustrated.
- Create opportunities to lighten the mood if appropriate.
These suggestions will have the added benefit of improving your focus and productivity as well as enhancing your wellbeing and emotional intelligence.
We can all afford some ‘mindfulness to go’. It actually doesn’t cost us anything – just a shift in our focus that further enhances our everyday experiences.
Yours in the present moment,
Bush Support Line
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